Legislation that would have allowed handguns on college campuses died quickly Wednesday in a Louisiana House committee without any public testimony allowed because of a time crunch.
House Bill 413 by state Rep. Ernest Wooton, No Party-Belle Chasse, would have made it legal to carry licensed, concealed handguns on public college campuses in the state.
With a victim of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre in attendance, Wooton posed the legislation as a Second Amendment issue more so than a safety matter. He said it is a constitutional right.
“If someone is going to commit a crime on campus, I don’t think he’s going to run and go get his permit,” Wooton, a former sheriff, told the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice.
“I just don’t believe that,” Wooton said of the legislation he sponsored. “I don’t think it’s going to cause a run on permits.”
HB413 was defeated on an 8-to-3 vote by the committee, which Wooton chairs. He has proposed similar legislation unsuccessfully multiple times starting in 2008. He is term-limited in the House after this year.
Critics have alleged that allowing guns on campuses could increase violence and make it more challenging for campus law enforcement to respond to incidents.
At one point in the debate, state Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, proposed an unsuccessful amendment that would have allowed permitted carriers to have their handguns in other banned areas, like airports, detention centers and the State Capitol.
“I just don’t want to be a hypocrite,” Burrell said. “Either we are carrying them everywhere or not.”
Doubting his sincerity, Wooton told Burrell that he is a hypocrite.
After the committee adjourned, an angry Wooton confronted Burrell, pointed at his face and called him the “biggest hypocrite” he knows.
“If I didn’t like you, I’d take that as a threat,” Burrell responded, “a man-to-man threat.”
The debate did not allow for public testimony because the full House was about to convene and the committee had to wrap up its business.
But Virginia Tech graduate Colin Goddard was prepared to testify.
Goddard was shot four times in his French class in 2007. He has a titanium rod in his leg and three of the bullets remain in his body. Twelve of his classmates and his instructor died that day, and the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, killed himself in Goddard’s classroom. Goddard had placed the 9-1-1 call before he was shot.
After the committee meeting, Goddard said the mentality that having “more guns in more places” so people can better defend themselves is wrong.
Noting that the U.S. has about 300 million guns, Goddard said, “we would probably be the safest country in the world, and we are far from it.”
“As a survivor, as someone who experienced it, this is not the way forward,” he said.
Named after the number of people murdered at Virginia Tech, Goddard recently starred in the “Living for 32” documentary that premiered at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in January.
The debate over guns on campuses became a hot topic nationally in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.
That was followed by the murders of two international students in an on-campus LSU apartment in late 2007. Weeks later, a Louisiana Technical College student in Baton Rouge killed two students in a classroom before killing herself.
Licensed concealed handgun carrying on college campuses is currently only fully allowed in Utah, although it also is legal at several Colorado colleges because of legal challenges.
The Arizona Legislature approved allowing handguns on campuses in April, but the legislation was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer.
Concealed carry legislation currently is progressing in Texas and Nevada
Last year, Wooton successfully pushed through legislation that eliminated the firearm-free school zone provisions from applying to concealed handgun permit holders on the edge of campuses.
VOTING TO DEFEAT HB413 (8): State Reps. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport; Mickey Guillory, D-Eunice; Dalton Honoré, D-Baton Rouge; Frank Howard, R-Many; Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport; Charmaine Stiaes, D-New Orleans, and Ledricka Thierry, D-Opelousas.
VOTING FOR GUNS ON CAMPUS (3): Chairman Ernest Wooton, No Party-Belle Chasse; and Reps. Damon Baldone, D-Houma; and Ricky Templet, R-Gretna.